As a child, I loved nothing better than fresh strawberries. For a few weeks every summer we’d walk down to the bottom of our garden and pick the ripest strawberries and bring them back to the house where we’d prepare them and put them in a bowl with some fresh cream and sugar.
I always thought it was such a shame we couldn’t have strawberries all year round.
So when I discovered that you could grow hydroponic strawberries which didn’t depend on seasonality I was delighted!
How To Grow Hydroponic Strawberries
While most fruit plants are widely regarded as being difficult to grow within a hydroponics system, strawberries are an exception. They certainly aren’t as easy to grow as herbs and hydroponic lettuce with a little planning you can grow plants that produce a bumper harvest consistently through the year.
Where To Start – Seeds Or Runners
Your first consideration is should you start with seeds or runners – plants that have been established and are capable of producing fruit.
Starting with seeds
While the dream of many hydroponic gardeners is to grow their own crops – seed to fruit, with certain plants such as strawberries, it doesn’t make sense. Strawberry plants can take between two to three years to mature enough to allow them to bear fruit which certainly isn’t ideal.
Starting with runners
For most growers, runners are a much better choice. Runners are established plants that have flowered and then been frozen to mimic winter temperatures. You then put them into your system and the plants will then start going through their natural cycle.
The other big benefit of runners is that they’re almost guaranteed to be disease-free so long as you’re buying from a reputable nursery.
There are three main types of strawberry short-day, day-neutral and everbearing that all have different light and seasonal requirements:
Short Day/June Bearing
Short day or June bearing strawberries are the most commonly grown outdoor strawberry. The species gets its name as flowers start to appear during the short days of winter. The “June” part of the name is a reference to when the plant typically bears fruit.
The more popular species include Benton, Allstar, and Annapolis and typically produce one heavy crop per year. They can be grown under hydroponic conditions however it does take a lot of work.
Day neutral strawberry species such as Seascape, Quinault, and Hecker are the most popular to grow within a hydroponics and greenhouse system as these cultivars are able to bear fruit constantly throughout the year.
Everbearing strawberry cultivars such as Picnic, Albion, and Laramie are the original multi-crop strawberry varieties from which the day neutral species were developed. While they will have two to three crops a year the yields are significantly lower than day neutral and short day types.
Okay, so now we know a little bit more about the 3 different kinds of strawberry types, we can start to look at their requirements.
The first consideration is the lighting requirements.
Whether you’re growing Short Day, Day Neutral or Everbearing, most strawberries will do well with between 8-12 hours of light. The great thing about these plants is that there’s no complicated lighting schedule as the lighting doesn’t need to be changed depending on the stage of the plant’s growth.
Like most fruits, you need to account for pollination within your system. In nature, bees do a lot of the hard work when it comes to pollination but there’s no way we can add them in our system – what we can do instead is to brush your hands across the open flowers to disturb the pollen.
Strawberries are quite a tough plant and can tolerate a fairly wide temperature range of between 60 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit, or 15 – 27 degrees Celsius.
Personally we aim to keep our daytime temperatures around 68 degrees Fahrenheit / 20 degrees Celsius while at night we try to keep it at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit / 10 degrees Celsius.
One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need to allow your plants to hibernate for three to four months each year. To do this you can simply lift them out of the system and place it in the fridge.
If you’ve read our guide to hydroponic nutrients you’ll know that your plants will require two things:
- Essential nutrients – these are things like Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorus (NPK) and are the building blocks of your plants development. To put it bluntly, without these you’re plants will die.
- Trace elements – these are things like Iron, Manganese, Zinc and Copper and are useful in helping your plants grow, however, they aren’t as vital as the essential nutrients.
Strawberries need both essential nutrients and trace element so you should look for a nutrient mix that contains these such as the product below:
EC & PH Levels
Strawberry plants will grow within a pH range of 5.8 to 6.3.
When it comes to electrical conductivity (EC), strawberries prefer and EC of around 1.4 – 3.0 deciSiemens/cm.
Best Hydroponic Systems For Strawberries
When it comes to the best system for growing hydroponic strawberries you can pretty much go with most options such as:
The Bottom Line
So there you have it, our guide on how to grow hydroponic strawberries. While they do take some work, it’s certainly worthwhile for the delicious fruit they produce.